Slacker Friday

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

We've got a new "Think Again" column here called "9/11-De-Commissioned." (Philip Zelikow has written me in some detail with objections to this column. I have asked his permission to print the letter alongside the column so perhaps it's there now.)

Ann Althouse is insane, continued: Read her here. The story is this: I made a point, yesterday, about the fact that one tends to be more considered in print, particularly print in a monthly fact-checked magazine, than in casual conversation. She saw her name there and has become hysterical over something I clearly didn't say -- and you can check the tape below -- notably, that bloggingheads.tv somehow constitutes a "private" conversation. She then takes her own, imaginary reading of what I wrote and goes on to speculate that I feel a secret "shame" about what I said. This is exactly the kind of thing, I suppose, one would expect from a woman who attacks other women for having boobs.

Perhaps Althouse should get together with the similarly challenged Ken Silverstein and the two of them can do this kind of thing all the time, but in private. In the meantime, allow me to recommend a book I just finished teaching to my students, Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, in a new 20th anniversary edition from Viking, which contains some extremely useful musings on the advantages of thinking in print compared to musing in conversation -- particularly televised conversation. Think before you blog, people; a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and so is my time. (And I'm not trashing bloggingheads, which is among the best of these conversations. It's just that the medium is by definition limited, and so is my time, which was the main reason I stopped doing them. I told Rob I would be glad to do a few once Why We're Liberals is published because, well, one has to promote one's real work.)

Two nutshells:

America in a nutshell.

Right-wing Jewish institutional leadership, contra actual Jewish views, in a nutshell.

Happy birthday, Josh. Congratulations on inventing a new form of journalism and toppling Trent Lott and Alberto Gonzales and saving Social Security. Now how about answering my email, big guy?

From TomDispatch:

Check out a classic piece on a writer of "perpetual wrongness" -- for which well-honed skill he is perpetually hired by prestigious mainstream outlets, most recently, The New York Times. There's hardly any need to spell out the name of He Who Strides Amongst Us, the editor of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard. But, okay, for the one person on the planet who doesn't know -- it's Bill Kristol. The notorious Mr. Kristol, the man whose crystal ball has never worked (least of all when it came to the invasion and occupation of Iraq).

In a romp through the past, Jonathan Schwarz, regular Mother Jones magazine contributor and humorist, takes us back to Kristol at the absolute top of his game in March 2003, just after the invasion was launched. Here are the first three paragraphs of his piece, a little classic of Kristoliana. Consider them a teaser for everything that follows:

Imagine that there were a Beatles record only a few people knew existed. And imagine you got the chance to listen to it, and as you did, your excitement grew, note by note. You realized it wasn't merely as good as Rubber Soul, or Revolver, or Sgt. Pepper's. It was much, much better. And now, imagine how badly you'd want to tell other Beatles fans all about it.

That's how I feel for my fellow William Kristol fans. You loved it when Bill said invading Iraq was going to have "terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East'? You have the original recording of him explaining the war would make us 'respected around the world" and his classic statement that there's 'almost no evidence' of Iraq experiencing Sunni-Shia conflict? Well, I've got something that will blow your mind!

I'm talking about Kristol's two-hour appearance on C-Span's Washington Journal on March 28, 2003, just nine days after the President launched his invasion of Iraq. No one remembers it today. You can't even fish it out of LexisNexis. It's not there. Yet it's a masterpiece, a double album of smarm, horrifying ignorance, and bald-faced deceit. While you've heard him play those instruments before, he never again reached such heights. It's a performance for the history books - particularly that chapter about how the American Empire collapsed.

Slacker Friday:

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc:

"The rat looked hard at Gunboat Bill and he said in a serious style/as he leapt into the water/ 'Don't believe, no, don't believe/Don't believe everything you hear.' "

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click -- "Next To Me" (The Subdudes) -- Once again, I have failed to train a brace of pileated woodpeckers to tap out in flawless Morse Code how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Has anyone clued Mark Penn into the fact that the Democratic Party will be holding its convention this summer in the politically insignificant state of Colorado? This guy could screw up a two-car funeral if you spotted him the hearse.

Part The Second: I don't know about baby Jesus, but this kind of thing makes Edward R. Murrow cry. To call Howard Kurtz a hack is to insult people who cut sugarcane for a living.

Part The Third: Phrases I never thought I'd hear in a discussion of American politics: torture, Governor Schwarzenegger, Congressman Sonny Bono, and Mike and the Mad Dog. Of course, by any reasonable standard, and particularly by those under which we throw 19-year old weedheads into jail until 2050, Brian McNamee IS a drug dealer.

Part The Fourth: Beagles rock. Had three of them growing up. All of them were named "Beau." That was the way we rolled in my house. Poodles are not dogs. Poodles are special effects. Beagles rock. Continuously. That is all.

Part The Last: Apropos of the Country Music Hall Of Fame discussion, may I nominate Guy Clark? And Tom T. Hall's "Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine" is the greatest song ever written for people (like journalists) who spend too much time in half-empty hotel bars.

Well, if you were keeping score at home, this past week saw the Congress of the United States come together in a bipartisan fashion to legalize torture, and to give President 30 Percent the untrammeled right to order Americans to break the law in order to spy on other Americans without a warrant. (That dumbass Heath Shuler is still throwing passes to the wrong damn team, by the way.) However, the Congress was bitterly divided along partisan lines on the issue of ... steroids in baseball. Yes, of course, Roger Clemens was the most destructive witness to his own case to hit a congressional committee since Alexander Butterfield. But if you wanted a vision of the ongoing Republican strategy to simply f**k things up until the next midterms, you couldn't have picked a better one than that committee hearing. There is no compelling logical reason why the committee should have been split so cleanly between the D's (who believed McNamee) and the R's (who believed Clemens). After all, the "war on drugs" has been a bipartisan sham and catastrophe for almost four decades now. Instead, we had the bizarre reappearance of that vintage adulterer and noted crazy person Dan Burton, taking up Clemens' case with gusto. We should be grateful, I suppose, that Burton hasn't yet taken a watermelon out into the backyard and shot it full of HGH. I'd missed that batsh*t old coot, I admit. But it became plain going forward that the entire tack taken by the Republicans on that committee was basically to screw with Waxman and the majority. So they lined up with a blustering, bullying, mouthy Texan, who's guilty as hell, smart as a rock, and about as articulate as the average tackhammer. Of course, they're used to that.

Name: Matt Shirley
Hometown: Pearl Harbor, HI

Dr. Alterman,

I'd like to voice another opinion on giving retroactive immunity to telecom industries that cooperated with Government requests for information. I am a progressive supporter of Sen Obama, and as a Fed attorney I believe I am just as outraged as any of your contributors to flagrant disregard of the current Administration (hack, ptewie) for the rule of law. However, I think giving Telecoms immunity is the right thing to do. Please let me explain why.

In Jan 09 we will have a new Administration (and there was much rejoicing, and the people sang). Suppose I am a Gov attorney devoted to the Constitution, and I see some troubling information related to homeland security. Under FISA as it existed long before 2000, the Fed Government has lawful authority to conduct electronic surveillance for 72 hours before having to get a warrant from FISA (in emergencies). So I go to Verizon following all the pre-2000 rules and procedures, and I ask for assistance until I can get a FISA warrant. (This is merely one of many examples of the Government lawfully asking for cooperation in a matter of homeland security.) If Congress does not pass the immunity, I'm going to get a call from Verizon's Corporate Counsel informing me they are going to give me zilch until I can prove to their satisfaction their company is not going to get sued.

My point is that the people currently making policy for the Executive Branch are NOT going to be in office forever. A subsequent Administration, one that is more dedicated to Constitutional governance, will be responsible for homeland security. I would prefer that Telecoms and other private companies be able to deal with successor Administrations in good faith, assume the Government is not asking them to break the law, and that they are not about to get sued for cooperating.

It's been a long seven years, but the current reality is not eternal.

Name: Julie Nelsen
Hometown: Salt Lake City

One reason to support Senator Clinton that I've not seen anywhere, (probably due to the high-minded notion currently in the air that we need to unite and avoid retribution), would be the video of George and Laura forced to greet Bill and Hillary at the White House on Inauguration morning next year. Since George is unlikely to be tried for his crimes, would not such a humiliation be at least a small down payment on the punishment he deserves?

Name: Mark Hessel
Hometown: Corvallis, Or

It's interesting to note "Taxi to the Dark Side," a documentary about an innocent Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by U.S. officials at Bagram Air Base and highlighted in the Journal's show on 2/8/2008, will not be shown on television.

Director Alex Gibney sold the broadcast rights to the Discovery Channel. The Discovery Channel has decided not to air it.

Name: Peggy
Hometown: seattle

I surely agree with the Gram Parsons thought (speaking of R-E-S-P-E-C-T)! There is a petition to get him into the CMHOF...1500 strong already!

Name: Beth Harrison
Hometown: Arlington, VA

Woody Guthrie was a trailblazing American artist, who sang about the common man, which you'd think make him a shoo-in for the Country Music Hall of Fame. But, to the voters who actually select the inductees, Woody is also a Communist. I say vote Woody into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! And during the induction ceremony, have everyone get up and sing "This Land is Your Land." Led by Arlo, of course.

Name: carl
Hometown: muscle shoals

Like Jesus, I've tried to love country music most of my life. And failed. After the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, Porter's and the Wilburn Brothers' shows just weren't the same. I've seen some great country artists live and what I liked best was that they made great music and didn't sound all that "country". There are great musicians here that have made terrific music (e.g., Mac McAnally, Gary Nichols) but put on the "warble" when they recorded in Nashville after the studios closed here (except for FAME). It's like the Gaylord Company (they own the Opry, Opryland Hotel, studios, and the big mall that replaced a fun amusement park) says, "That's okay, son, but we need to make it cheezy, um, country."

There was a great alternative to American Idol called Nashville Star (in case you missed it, the two finalists were from Muscle Shoals; brother and sister). The show really rocked (they could play instruments -- wonder why AI does that now?) but Gaylord had to make it cheezy, too. Like Hee Haw....

Name: Corinne
Hometown: Corvallis, Oregon

I'd like to nominate the late, great John Hartford for inclusion in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

John's influence on the progression of country music, especially the blue/new-grass genre probably cannot be overstated. He spanned the gap between the 60's folkies and traditional country artists.

Glen Campbell, who is in the Hall of Fame, owes at least some measure of his success to "Gentle on my Mind," which was written by John (and won 4 Grammy awards in 1967, 2 for John and 2 for Glenn).

John was also an amazing performer, both live, and on television, appearing as a regular on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and on Glen Campbell's show.

His fourth and final Grammy was awarded posthumously, in February 2002, for his contribution to the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

John recorded 30 albums, but my favorite remains 1971's Aereo-Plain.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.